- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2002

President Bush will send his first budget to Congress tomorrow, a $2.13 trillion spending plan that calls for huge increases in defense and homeland security and faces assaults from the left and the right.
The White House is proposing a nearly 9 percent increase in discretionary spending, which accounts for one-third of the federal budget. That portion includes $48 billion more for the Pentagon, a 14 percent hike that Mr. Bush calls "the largest increase in defense spending in two decades."
The defense budget in fiscal 2003, which starts Oct. 1, would rise to $379 billion, including another pay raise for military personnel on top of the 5 percent salary increase approved last year. Mr. Bush plans to increase spending on weapons procurement by $8 billion to $69 billion.
The administration also wants to spend about $38 billion for homeland security, such as border guards and bioterrorism vaccines, nearly double the amount that the government spent last year.
For the first time since 1997, the proposed budget also includes a deficit of about $80 billion.
"We've got big projects to take care of," said Trent Duffy, spokesman for the White House Office on Management and Budget. "The president's budget is a reflection of his agenda: Win the war on terrorism, protect the homeland and put Americans back to work."
Republicans and Democrats say they will give the president nearly everything he wants on national defense as he conducts the war on terrorism. But Mr. Bush's plans will face criticism from Democrats who want more spending on such domestic items as prescription drugs and conservative Republicans who say spending outside defense should be cut to balance the budget.
"It's not a budget that conservatives are going to cheer about," said Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a Washington-based group that promotes conservative policies and candidates. "It risks alienating the fiscal conservative wing of the party. It is not a lean budget that calls for smaller and smarter government."
Mr. Bush will propose spending $190 billion to overhaul Medicare, including adding a prescription drug benefit for the federal health program's 39 million elderly recipients. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is proposing more than $300 billion to reform the system and provide prescription drug coverage.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, told a national radio audience of Hispanics over the weekend that Democrats will work this year to increase spending on education and teacher recruitment, to raise the minimum wage and to make the first $10,000 of college tuition tax deductible.
Mr. Duffy said: "We cannot have guns and butter. The rest [other than defense spending] has got to grow around 2 percent. That's the way we maintain fiscal discipline and return to surpluses quickly."
Spending for federal programs besides automatically paid benefits such as Social Security grew by 11 percent in fiscal 2002 and 9 percent the previous fiscal year.
Mr. Moore said the Democratic proposals highlight the anxieties of conservatives with Mr. Bush's budget: They fear that a Democrat-led Senate will only add to the president's spending proposals.
"This [9 percent increase] becomes the floor for Congress, not the ceiling," Mr. Moore said. "It's the opening of the gates for a shopping spree."
A group of conservative Republicans in the House is seeking to approve a balanced budget, in the event that Congress does not pass an economic recovery bill of roughly $75 billion. But House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, has said balancing the budget would require cutting $30 billion to $40 billion from the White House's spending plan, which he has called an unlikely goal.
Conservatives are especially critical of the president's proposal to spend $560 million on a USA Freedom Corps of volunteers, much like President Clinton's AmeriCorps program.
John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union, called it "an expansion of a bad idea that Bill Clinton came up with." He said over 10 years, the proposal would cost $5.8 billion.
On education, Mr. Bush will propose an increase of $1 billion for Title 1, the federal education programs for the nation's most impoverished schools. He also will call for an increase of $1 billion for special education funding, a 13-percent increase.
Mr. Berthoud said large new increases in education spending are not needed after the administration and Congress just last year approved a $26.3 billion education reform plan.
"We just keep going down the path on education more money and more federal control," he said.
Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont Independent, said deficit spending is acceptable "when you have critical issues such as education, which the future of your nation depends upon."
But he also told a National Press Club audience on Friday: "Across the board, we should try to do the best we can to get things in balance, even if that means postponing some of the tax cuts." Some Democrats, such as Mr. Kennedy and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, have proposed freezing or repealing portions of the administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut. Mr. Bush proposes to make the tax relief permanent.
Mr. Duffy said the president also is keeping a campaign pledge by proposing to double funding for the National Institutes of Health to more than $27 billion. That spending would include research on bioterrorism.


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